Officers visit children to foster positive relationships through new book

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Ted Sullivan
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
— Janesville police officer Brian Foster stood in front of a preschool class, showing off the gadgets on his belt.

"Somebody tell me what this is?" Foster asked the children.

"A flashlight," the children yelled while sitting on the floor, looking up at him.

"Anybody know what this is?" Foster asked.

"A walkie-talkie," the children responded.

"What's this one?" Foster asked.

"A gun," the children said.

Foster and other officers were visiting the class as part of an effort to meet with Janesville children and read them a book, "A Day with a Janesville Police Officer," which officers wrote and published.

Officers have visited kindergarten classes, preschools and day cares throughout the city to create a positive relationship with children, officer Rick Mussey said. Often, a child's perception of police can be negative.

"It's always negative with the cop. Everybody gets that early on in their life," Mussey said. "We do so much more positive, and the poor little guys don't understand that."

Mussey and officer Kevin Olin created the children's book. They had kindergarten teachers proof the pages. The final draft is an 18-page book with 16 photos describing a typical day for Janesville officers.

"I enjoyed it, but I never have done anything like that before," Olin said. "It still feels good to say I wrote a book."

The book describes police briefings, 911 calls and dispatch. It also teaches about solving crimes, traffic patrol and the SWAT team.

"It's giving them a better understanding of the many different things that an officer does during the day," Olin said. "Many of those kids don't realize the different things the officers are doing."

When officers recently visited Faith Little Friends day care, they found an excited crowd of children ages 2 to 5. The children's eyes lit up at the sight of police uniforms and badges.

"I am so happy to be here with you," Mussey told the kids.

Although officers wear what might be scary uniforms, Mussey told the youngsters, "We're your friends."

After Foster showed off his "tool belt," Olin read the book, stopping to ask questions and interact with children.

"We call 911 for what?" Olin asked the kids.

"If we need help," one girl responded.

Olin told the kids that officers have lockers and roll call just like children. He said officers enforce rules just like teachers. He said officers also help kids.

"Never be afraid to say, ‘Hello,'" Olin told the children. "Never be afraid to wave."

After reading the book, the presentation was over.

"I hope you see that throughout the day we do a lot of the same things you do," Olin told the kids. "The most important part of our day is helping people and making people safe."

One girl asked Olin for a hug. Soon, several kids lined up for hugs or high-fives from the officers.

Foster said police work typically deals with problems, but interacting with children is good duty.

He said little kids always are happy too see cops.

Teachers have told police that officers reading to children have made a difference, Sgt. Brian Donohoue said.

"The book really, really breaks through that wall and the uniform and the gun belt and the stigma attached to that," Donohoue said.

To request a presentation

Schools, day cares or civic groups that want Janesville police officers to read the children's book, "A Day with a Janesville Police Officer," to kids should call Sgt. Brian Donohoue at (608) 755-3133.

Last updated: 4:45 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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